Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Simple Way to Share

It’s the Season of Christmas, the twelve days (yes, Christmas is a season, not just a day) when we celebrate the Incarnation, the birth of Christ our Lord. “Let every heart prepare him room.” Yes indeed, let Jesus into your heart. Just don’t keep him there.

Good heavens, people, we have to move our faith from our hearts and heads down into our hands and feet. Faith which lies dormant inside of us is no faith at all. Abraham wasn’t blessed for his own sake, he was blessed to be a blessing. Jesus didn’t come merely to save us. Jesus saves us from our own sin and darkness so we can share the light of Christ with others.

Look, this is easy. Go serve somebody, anybody, during the Christmas Season (now through Jan. 5). Then do it again in February. You can serve in small, simple ways. Give someone your place in line. Let someone cut in front of you in traffic. Take your neighbor’s trash can back up to the house for him. Babysit a toddler so a young mom has time to return things without kids pulling on her. Help a friend take down Christmas lights.

Or you can serve in bigger ways with others who are already serving. Haven for Hope. San Antonio Food Bank. Taking it to the Streets. They may have extra help around the holidays, so offer to do the work no one else wants to do. Do the prep work. Clean up. Take out the trash. Ask them what they need done, then do it.

But bring an envelope with you.

  • You’ll need to prepare the envelope beforehand.
  • Write your own name on the outside of the envelope.
  • Then write these words, “If I don’t come back for this, open on March 1”.
  • Place a check in the envelope, made out to the ministry or non-profit you’re going to serve. But make it a good one! Don’t wimp out now. Fifty bucks or a hundred or five hundred. Make it just enough that you wince a little when you write it, not so much that you can’t let it go, but big enough that you’d like that check back.
  • Put the check in the envelope and seal it.
  • Bring your calendar with you.
  • Take the envelope with you and give it to whomever is in charge.
  • Tell them, “I am coming back to serve with you again. When I do, I will retrieve this envelope. If I do not, you may keep whatever is inside as a donation.”
  • Then whip out your calendar and set a specific date and time when you will return.
  • Add the date to the outside of the envelope.

Instant motivation. Just like that. Not that you wouldn’t keep the promise you made to yourself about going back. Not you. But some people find it difficult to follow through with their own good ideas. Just ask any trainer at your local gym.

When you go back to serve with that ministry again, ask for the envelope. Don’t be shy. They’ll be happy to give it to you because it means you are there. Not there during the holiday rush, but there when the need is still great but the volunteers are few. Go back and be the hands and feet of Jesus again. Carry the light of Christ out into the world.

Create room for the Messiah by putting flesh on your faith, faith con carne. As Paul tells us, “work out your salvation,” not to earn it (you can’t) but to use it. Go get that envelope. Then do with it whatever you will.


What Are You Waiting For?

Woohoo! The paper published another column of mine. This one appeared in the religion section of last Sunday’s Express-News. If you haven’t already seen it on Facebook, I thought you might enjoy reading it here. And if you want to see more of what the Express-News has to offer, click the image below.

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Seems like we’re waiting more than usual here lately. Forget construction and traffic and the lines at Target, the holiday season brings its own brand of waiting. Waiting for school to let out. Waiting for sales to start. Waiting for family to arrive. (Maybe waiting for them to leave again?)

As a people, we do not wait well. A few weeks ago my wife witnessed a shouting match between two presumably normal adults waiting in line to buy high school football tickets. People had been waiting in line for hours. People grew antsy, then frustrated, then selfish, then downright hostile. No, we are not good at waiting.

Not a surprise, really. We are microwave, drive-through, 4G people. In a high-speed world, waiting becomes our greatest post-modern sin. It’s unproductive and boring and (pause for a gasp of mock disdain) a waste of time.

Unless, of course, it’s not.

Perhaps the God who created time gives us time to wait as a gift. Could it be that waiting is the antidote to busy-ness? Instead of railing and wailing and wishing that waiting would go away, maybe we should embrace it. Maybe we wouldn’t hate waiting so much if we were better at it. Maybe we could practice waiting to see if we improve.

With practice, waiting might become a time of joyful expectation. Waiting could be the gift that prepares us for what comes next. How do we practice waiting? How do we shift from waiting for something to end to awaiting the arrival of something new?

One word. Advent. Advent prepares us for the coming of Christ. Advent carries us to Bethlehem. Advent shrinks Mary’s nine months down to four Sundays of waiting and expectation. Waiting looks backward, holding our breath until this current time ends. Advent looks ahead, breathlessly anticipating the arrival of something new.

We recognize this kind of Advent waiting, but we don’t see it very often. This is waiting for a wedding day or the birth of a child or the return of a loved one. You know it’s coming. It changes your plans and alters your perspective. It holds a before-and-after quality. “I used to be that, then something happened, now I’m this.”

We know this kind of waiting. We can practice it. We can live in Advent.

Regular waiting is reactive. Kids can’t find their shoes. Someone is late for a meeting.

Advent waiting is proactive. Build time into your schedule when you do nothing, even if only for a minute or two. Push your own pause button. Be still. Pray. Give thanks.

Normally we wait for something to end. End of the week, the month, the season, the year. This waiting turns our heads to see what might be catching us from behind.

In Advent, we wait for something to begin. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on….” Expect Christ to come into the world. Expect His joy and hope and peace. Don’t look back asking, “What if? Look ahead and ask “What next?”

Everyday waiting focuses on us. I’m late. I’m bored. This is wasting my time.

Advent waiting turns us toward others. We get over ourselves by giving to others. “Let every heart prepare Him room” (feel free to sing along). We create space for Christ by doing what He did, loving the least and the lost and the lonely.

Usually our waiting is passive. We stand in line at the checkout counter. We sit, and sit, and sit some more at the doctor’s office. This is time wasted, time being killed.

Advent waiting is active. Don’t kill time, use it. Let someone go in front of you. Pray for those around you. Give your wait-time to God and see what He does with it.

It’s Advent. Jesus is coming. So what are you waiting for?


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